24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
The Problem of Misuse of Spiritual Gifts (1 Corinthians 12-14)
In the first century, it was universally accepted that trances, ecstatic speech, and bizarre behavior indicated a special closeness to the gods. It’s easy to understand why epilepsy was named the “divine disease”! In view of this cultural notion, it is not surprising to find many Christians at Corinth viewed those who spoke in tongues as especially spiritual. This assumption led to problems, and it led Paul to include a long section in this letter instructing the church about true spirituality. In the process Paul puts all spiritual gifts in perspective, helping us all to understand the nature of true spirituality and how to recognize spiritual maturity.
Chapter 12. Spiritual Gifts
Spirituality; 12:1-3. The word “gifts” is not in the Greek text of verse 1. Paul is writing of spirituality and countering the pagan notion (2) that anyone making an ecstatic utterance is “speaking by the Spirit of God” (3). Apparently some Corinthians even viewed such utterances as having more authority than Scripture! In chapters 12-14 Paul will thoroughly discuss all aspects of spiritual giftedness, of spiritual maturity, and of ministry.
1 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
Spiritual Gifts; 12:4-11. Paul teaches that each believer has a gift which involves the Spirit working through him to serve and build up others. Since the same Spirit is at work through every gift, no gift should be singled out as “special.”
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
One Body and Its Members; 12:12-31. God the Spirit unites every believer with Jesus and one another to form a single, living body (12, 13). The members of the body are interdependent, and the whole needs what each part contributes (14-19). The teaching has two applications: in the body every member and his gifts is indispensable. Thus all should be honored “so that there should be no division in the body” (21-26). And, since gifts are distributed, everyone should not expect to have the same gifts (27-30). Against the background of the Corinthian preoccupation with tongues, and the desire of many for this more spectacular gift, this last reminder was important.
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues ? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.
Paul’s final statement to the Corinthian church as a whole and not to individuals, and is an exhortation to them to give their attention to the “greater gifts (See Chapter 14).
The Body of Christ
This is one of the dominant NT images used to covey truths about our relationship with other Christians and with Jesus Christ. Several important truths are emphasized in the image and in passages where it is used in the NT.
- Christ is Head. As Christians, we are to recognize and submit to the guidance of Jesus in our lives. We are to be aware that decision-making is done by the Head of the Church — and to seek his will. To let Jesus be Lord means searching out his will by prayer and exploration of the Scriptures, ever sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We are not to rely on human approaches to planning and goal-setting.
- We are Christ’s Living Body. Today Christians actually are the living incarnation of Jesus on earth. We represent Jesus to others, and we have his life within us. The work of Jesus is continued on each through the members of his living body.
- Health is Vital to the Body. The NT speaks often of how the body grows and remains healthy. As any living organism, the body of Christ must be healthy to carry out the will of its Head. Two things are vital to health of the body of Christ. There are to be close and loving relationship between its members. Each member is to use his gifts to serve and minister to each other. How important it is that each of us learn to see ourselves as God sees us: as persons enabled by the presence of Jesus to serve and to build others up.